Chomsky, Israelis and conspiracy theorists shared space on Bin Laden’s shelf

Details of al-Qaeda leader’s English literature holdings reveal interest in French economy, Mideast ideology and books questioning 9/11 narrative

This undated photo shows al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP)
This undated photo shows al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP)

For an arch-terrorist holed up in a remote part of Pakistani, Osama Bin Laden was apparently quite the reader, at least according to documents declassified Wednesday detailing what was on the al-Qaeda leader’s bookshelf.

The English language reading list included numerous books by conspiracy theorists and an inordinate number on France, suggesting he may have planned to strike the country’s economy, US officials said Wednesday.

His “bookshelf” included titles by US journalist Bob Woodward and linguist and left-wing polemicist Noam Chomsky as well as a history of the French economy and an unpublished manuscript of a study called “Did France Cause the Great Depression?”

And while he may not have been a fan of Israel, his reading list included at least two papers by Israelis: a 2006 paper on jihadi ideology by Herzliya’s Shmuel Bar, published by the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, and a 2004 article by IDC lecturer Reuven Paz on the impact of the Iraq War on the fight against jihadis.

US intelligence agencies for the first time released the list of English language texts found at Bin Laden’s Pakistani compound after the American military raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief on May 2, 2011.

Jeffrey Anchukaitis, spokesman for the US director of national intelligence’s office, said Bin Laden “appears to have been interested in attacking the economy of France in the hope that an economic collapse there would trigger one in the US or the rest of the Western world.”

US intelligence analysts were not surprised Bin Laden was interested in attacking the economies of the West, but Anchukaitis said “it was surprising that he asked for so many books on France.”

The spokesman told AFP that “just because he had these books doesn’t mean he was committed to that course of action.”

“It means he had asked his lieutenants to bring him information on France,” he said.

The list also included texts on France’s military health services, defense industry and “water profile.”

About half of the books on the reading list, promote various conspiracies — topics such as Illuminati, Freemasons as well as books questioning the official account that Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda carried out the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The list included conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin’s “The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11” and “The Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by Eustace Mullins, known as a denier of the Holocaust.

Titles by Chomsky on Bin Laden’s reading list include “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance” and “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies.”

The release of the reading list coincided with the declassification of more than 100 documents found at Bin Laden’s hideout, which came after Congress ordered the spy agencies to release more of the material that was seized in the Navy SEAL raid.

The documents shed light on Bin Laden’s mindset, his concerns about security and his preoccupation with staging more large-scale attacks on the United States.

One of the documents, translated by intelligence officials, begins with questions similar to a conventional job application: “Do you have hobbies? Have you been convicted of a crime?” But it veers into more chilling territory, asking: “What objectives would you like to accomplish on your jihad path?”

It then asks: “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?”

The document ends with: “Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?”

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